Statham, Jason: Bank Job

Inspired by the infamous 1971 robbery that took place at the Lloyds Bank in Marylebone London, THE BANK JOB, starring Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows, is a highly-charged heist thriller that tautly interweaves corruption, murder and sexual scandal in 1970s England.

In 1971, Britain was experiencing a hangover. Following the indulgences of Swinging-era London and the decline of Flower Power, Londoners were unceremoniously faced with a series of labor conflicts under Edward Heaths Conservative Government and escalating violence in Northern Ireland. It seemed only logical that the transition into the Me Decade, as Thomas Wolfe put it, would be marked by a group of enterprising bank robbers involved in Britains biggest robbery ever.

Dubbed the Walkie-Talkie Robbery by newspapers, the crime was discovered by an amateur radio ham, Robert Rowlands, who alerted Scotland Yard after overhearing a robbery in progress somewhere within a 10-mile radius of Central London. Seven hundred and fifty banks in the inner London area were checked that weekend, but there were no signs of forced entry anywhere. It was only when Lloyds Bank, on the corner of Baker Street and Marylebone Road, opened for business on Monday that hundreds of safety deposit boxes in the main vault were found to have been looted.

The robbery left countless questions unanswered. After only four days of reportage by newspapers, the story disappeared entirely, the result of an alleged D Notice issued by the government. Only four men were convicted in connection with the crime and much of the loot was never recovered. Of the stolen property that the police did manage to retrieve, most was never reclaimed a testament to just how many incriminating secrets are buried in the vaults of banks.

In the years since, the Walkie-Talkie Robbery has lived on as a contemporary urban legend. Says producer Steven Chasman, Often, in London, when Im in a taxi or speaking to someone who was around at the time, they remember the Walkie-Talkie Robbery and what happened. They knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone who was involved.

Director Donaldsons interest in the political and cultural details of the period resulted in an in-depth research period. I love the research. Thats one of the things I really do embroil myself in, he admits. I finished up going to the newspapers of the time, to the national archives, digging up facts that have not seen the light of day since they happened in 1971.

For the lead role of Terry Leather, the used car dealer-turned-bank-robber, Donaldson turned to Jason Statham, the British star known for the hits THE TRANSPORTER and CRANK.

Upon reading THE BANK JOB, Statham embraced the opportunity to step aside from the high-powered action roles for which hes famous. This, thankfully, hasnt been one thats tested me too much in the stunt department, says the actor. Ive replaced holding a gun with holding a pint of ale. Im not hanging out of helicopters and doing a lot of the silliness Ive been paid to do in the past. This is more of a sophisticated thriller. Im sure its going to be a great crowd pleaser.

Like the British Steve McQueen

Jasons like a British Steve McQueen, avows Donaldson. Theres a really great, brooding sort of quality about him. He does a lot with a little, and hes very charismatic. Hes not like anyone else that I know of on screen.

The part of Terry really shows Jasons great range as an actor, adds Roven. It allows him to do it all, from being the tough guy to struggling with romantic conflict. Hes also incredibly likable. He has such a great persona on screen that the audience automatically gravitates to him.

Complicating Terrys life is an alluring old friend, Martine, who embroils him in both the bank job and a difficult romantic triangle. Like Martine, actress Saffron Burrows is a former model who left the world of fashion to pursue a new career. Martine Love is, in a sense, like me in many ways, says Burrows. She and Terry have this history together, which I like in the way that its quite undefined and the writers havent chosen to nail down entirely what their history is.

The scripts high number of locations posed a considerable challenge to production designer Gavin Bocquet. Finding those little areas of London that more or less can be shot as 1970s, without much work being done, was very difficult, he says. But we did an awful lot of research into that period. We had some very good BBC news footage, especially of the bank robbery itself.

For Statham, the greatest pleasure of the production was the opportunity to work with Donaldson. Hes probably one of the most easy going people you will ever get to meet, says Statham. And the fact he has made a bucketful of brilliant films gives us the ease to come on set and take direction without even questioning him because hes such a great filmmaker. He understands different characters, the story telling aspect and the look. Hes just one of the greatest directors I have ever had to work with. I feel very lucky on that side of things.